View Full Version : Downtown Brooklyn, the Plan

June 16th, 2003, 08:59 PM

June 16th, 2003, 09:07 PM
I went through all of it. No new information really, although the Hoyt&Schemerhorn building is news to me.

June 17th, 2003, 10:13 AM
I wish they would develop all those damn self-storage facilites in DT. It makes no damn sense - offices and/or loft apartments in all these areas would be a major boost.

January 7th, 2004, 03:52 AM
January 7, 2004

Plugging a Hole in Brooklyn's Heart


Eight square blocks of blight pose a development challenge in a slice of Brooklyn that includes a patchwork of major projects.

Brooklyn nurses its grudge against Manhattan with all the subtlety of King Kong, a Red Sox fan or Gerald R. Ford.

So this may come as perverse consolation, but slowly, quietly and over the course of decades, the borough has created something — or, rather, a conspicuous nothing — that elevates it among the ranks of the country's real, independent big cities.

At the borough's heart, framed by the waterfront to the west, the arts center to the east, the civic center to the north and a thriving residential neighborhood and dining scene to the south, sit eight square blocks of urban blight. There are some buildings, some beauty salons, a deli here and there, but the dominant features of this rectangle bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Schermerhorn Street, Court Street and Bond Street are parking lots, fences, dirt, and nothing.

By virtue of its centrality and run-down state, this area gives Brooklyn a challenge and an opportunity that compares not with Manhattan but more directly with the West End in Dallas, downtown Columbus, Ohio, or Skid Row in Los Angeles. In short, it is the archetypal little urban patch right in the middle of everything that no one knows how to use.

What sets this one apart from comparable sites in those other cities is that it includes an unrelated patchwork of seven major projects, five of them already under way.

"What's there right now is an area that hasn't had much attention paid to it," said Glenn D. Markman, an executive director of the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. "Now, the focus is there. The vision is going to result in this being one of the important gateways in all of Brooklyn."

The success of each project, though, depends to some extent upon completion of the others. And around the intersection of Willoughby Street and the Flatbush Avenue Extension, more is at stake. The city of New York has earmarked that zone for a $100 million economic development project and identified it as one of the city's last best hopes to retain companies and jobs after so many have moved away in pursuit of less expensive real estate.

That commercial area, where the city hopes to create 4.5 million square feet of new office space, is linked to Manhattan by the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge and subway service, including the A, C, F, M, N and R lines and the 2, 3, 4 and 5 trains. It is isolated, though, from much of what Brooklyn has to offer, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the promenade and a group of neighborhoods so trendy that the civic boosters have taken to referring to them collectively as BoCoCa, for Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens.

What stands between them all is this frozen zone, its south side sometimes called the Atlantic Avenue Gap, which is now thawing in chunks.

"It's one of the most critical intersections in all of Brooklyn," said David Yassky, a City Council member whose district office is on Court Street at the edge of this zone.

This barren but strategically invaluable area was nearly a half-century in the making, created from the Brooklyn House of Detention — which was erected in 1957 and emptied last year — and three urban renewal sites acquired by the state for a project that was aborted in the 1970's.

New plans for the lots would create a mixed-income residential neighborhood served by its own retail stores and hotels.

The most expensive and intricate of the projects is an effort to overhaul a full city block bounded by Schermerhorn, Hoyt, State and Smith Streets.

The presence of five historic town houses near the southeastern flank makes the block visually striking. They make this stretch of State Street look like any other tree-lined block of moneyed Brooklyn, only with a gaping hole plugged by a parking lot.

A partnership including Time Equities, known recently for its conversions of office buildings around Wall Street into apartments, and Abby Hamlin, a Brooklyn-born onetime dancer who has developed town houses in TriBeCa, bought the 100,000-square-foot site from the Empire State Development Corporation last month after two years of negotiations, for $4.6 million.

The developers say they intend to line State Street with 27 single-family town houses and to build about 200 apartments and lofts, a theater and retail space, perhaps including a supermarket. They have to work around the five town houses because of the historic designations, and the city mandated the inclusion of low-income housing, developed and managed jointly by the Actors' Fund and Common Ground. The total cost of the project is estimated at $165 million.

"It looked like an opportunity to do a project that would have a significant impact on the urban environment," Ms. Hamlin said.

Directly to the east, the state is selling a 60,000-square-foot parcel bounded by State, Bond, Hoyt and Schermerhorn Streets, to the IBEC Building Corporation in a deal expected to close for $3.5 million in the spring, state officials said. IBEC, which has been awarded development rights from the city, has indicated that it plans rental housing and the sale of town houses, state officials said.

South of those parcels, at Smith Street and Atlantic Avenue directly east of the House of Detention, Lev Leviev/Boymelgreen Developers paid the state $3.3 million last February for an 18,000-square-foot parcel, where it intends to build a boutique hotel with 50 luxury rental condominiums and 10,000 square feet of retail space. Work is under way at the site, and the building is scheduled to open in the spring of 2005 at a total cost of $30 million, according to the developer.

"The projects count on each other," said T. William Kim, project developer for the hotel complex. "How much traffic comes into the area depends on there being some momentum and the right mix of services to create that niche."

On the other side of the House of Detention, at the intersection of Court Street and Atlantic Avenue, Two Trees Management, the company controlled by the Walentas family and best known for transforming the neighborhood known as Dumbo (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), bought the site from the city for $16.5 million and plans a $120 million project that would include a 700-space subterranean parking garage, 321 apartments for diverse income levels, 20,000 square feet of retail space and a new $14 million Y.M.C.A.

The same company has been engaged in negotiations to acquire the old Board of Education building at 110 Livingston Street. Though Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg slapped a red "Sold" sign on the front door for dramatic effect at a news conference in July, the sale still faces some public review, according to the city's Economic Development Corporation. Two Trees envisions transforming those offices into condominiums.

"Long-term, downtown Brooklyn is going to be what's going to compete with New Jersey," said Jed D. Walentas, an executive of Two Trees.

Between the two sites where Two Trees has its designs, on Boerum Place between State and Schermerhorn Streets, the Brooklyn Law School paid $6.2 million for a parking lot that it plans to convert into a residence hall for 360 students. The plans drawn up by Robert A. M. Stern call for an exterior of brick and cast stone to match the brownstones of the neighborhoods nearby, and Joan G. Wexler, dean of the school, said it would be completed in the spring of 2005 at a total cost of $83 million.

Across the street, on the east side of Boerum Place between State and Schermerhorn Streets, developers acquired yet another parking lot last year and have plans to build an 11-story tower of 99 one- and two-bedroom market-rate rental apartments. The project will be completed in the spring of 2004 at a total cost of $28 million, according to Mario Procida, a manager of the development group.

The fate of the stark Brooklyn House of Detention is among the more obvious variables, cited as a challenge by several of the developers. Though the building is empty, the city has characterized its closing as temporary and left open the possibility that it could be filled again, a prospect that would oblige all the fancy new apartment buildings to find tenants who do not mind living next door to a jail.

The obstacles do not end there.

"You have streetscapes that, most of them, are pretty ugly, with very few amenities, street trees," said Michael J. Burke, director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, a business advocacy group. "That will require a lot of public investment."

If in fact a new neighborhood emerges, there remains the matter of winning over the neighbors. Few people are sorry to see the parking lots go, but the prospect of a new influx of people is not universally applauded in the existing neighborhoods.

"What are you going to do to create open space, realistically, that people can use?" said Jo Anne Simon, a past president of the Boerum Hill Association. She cited additional traffic as another concern.

And there are those who see the eventual success of the whole endeavor as a loss for Brooklyn, for reasons as old as the borough's grudge against the island to the northwest.

"When we become more like Manhattan due to the high-rises, it takes the personal nature out of it," said Matthew LaSorsa, owner of Heights Chateau, a wine store that has been on Atlantic Avenue between Clinton and Henry Streets since the mid-1980's. "I don't know that you ever get a communal feeling out of a high-rise building, as if you were walking down Henry Street and people were sitting on their stoops. It's not the same."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

January 7th, 2004, 02:02 PM
A bunch of the things they mentioned are well underway now, not 'planned', notably the Law School dormitory and 53 Boerum Place.

But townhouses... next to a downtown... eh.

January 7th, 2004, 04:17 PM
I object to the low-income housing requirement. I have NEVER seen an area that integrates well with one of those. The construction on those things is simply hideous too...

The concern about the traffic is a valid one, but asking for "open space" is absolute BS. Build something there first. See if you can GET some space tucked away. If things start working out, you may be able to put in a nice park. But I think EVERYONE there would prefer a condo development to a parking lot anyday...

TLOZ Link5
January 7th, 2004, 05:21 PM
It can't all be luxury housing. Nor can it be all low-income; so you're right Ninja. Middle-income housing is a better idea, and should be a big part of this development.

January 7th, 2004, 09:35 PM
Does anyone know if there's any plan for the northwestern corner of Boreum & Atlantic? (the corner across boreum from teh house of detention, now a parking lot.)

With all the two highrises to the west and the HOD across the street, it's kind of a let down to see an empty parking lot there.

January 7th, 2004, 10:07 PM
I'm sure an 11 or 12 story building will go there. It falls under the new 120' zoning.

January 8th, 2004, 11:05 AM
11 stories is hard to do with 120' height. Usually only parking garages can get that kind of clearance (figure a nominally sized W24, 24" beam, and a 4-6 inch deck reduces your clear height on a 10' floor to floor to close to 7'-6". Give it a 6" clear (because of drainage slopes and other unforseen irregularities) and you have a 7' nominal clearance. Quite cramped...).

Usually these places are built with, at LEAST, 12' floor to floor. I have seen 13'-6" used a lot too on some of the larger ones that have plans for ventalation in the ceilings...

Middle income would be great. A few townhouses for the special people, then a condo complex with a nice common area and parking lot/garage for the rest of the people that would actually work, eat and LIVE there.

January 8th, 2004, 03:55 PM
53 Boerum Place is 11 floors and under 120 feet.

January 8th, 2004, 04:35 PM
I am saying usually. Also, is that 11 stories INCLUDING the ground story? Is the first story at or below ground level?

You make a building with 10 foot story to story, don't bother moving in. You will have no head room and all your utilities will have to be run independantly (IOW, you cant fan them out from a main).

It is just not practical and usually shows the greed of the developer.

January 8th, 2004, 04:41 PM
The floors look fine to me... as for the floor count, 11 was listed on the permit as well as mentioned in newspaper articles.

January 8th, 2004, 05:37 PM
It a hard concept to grasp, for two families the same apartment, but only one will have to double over the other. This concept certainly is not capitalism, and there are certain requirements, but its merits are in integrating a people what would otherwise be in a ghetto. Although the “rich” will resent this, and developers faced with extravagant building costs arent loving it, thus the incentives, the end product is a better rounded city.

January 29th, 2004, 11:19 AM
From the Gotham Gazette.


The Plans For Downtown Brooklyn Ignore Both People And Public Spaces

by Tom Angotti
January, 2004

The city's planners are working overtime to clear the way for over 60 million square feet of new office space in such business centers as West Midtown, Lower Manhattan, Long Island City, and now downtown Brooklyn. While realtors see a big demand for prime office space now, it remains to be seen whether this amount of commercial space will be needed in the long run with the continuing trend of gradual movement to the suburbs. City officials backing this expansion are acting more like cheerleaders for local real estate than custodians of the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

The new downtown Brooklyn rezoning plan is now moving through the city's land use approval process and local residents and civic groups are turning out in droves to raise their questions and register their complaints. Even though some were involved in earlier discussions about the plans, there are still so many things that are important to neighborhoods that are not in the plan. The key questions have to do with impacts on the surrounding residential areas, transportation, lack of open space, and displacement of existing residents and businesses.

With its Downtown Brooklyn Plan, the city wants to create 4.5 million square feet of new office space and 1,000 new housing units in a small area just across the East River from Wall Street. Brooklyn civic groups say the potential expansion will be seven million square feet while the city is only considering the potential environmental impact of 4.5 million. The plan includes parking for some 2,500 cars, a 1.5 acre park, and some widening of sidewalks. The plan also incorporates proposed expansions of Atlantic Terminal, Polytechnic University, Brooklyn Law School, the Hoyt-Schermerhorn urban renewal area, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music cultural district. Atlantic Terminal is also the site of a controversial plan to build a basketball arena for the Nets while displacing perhaps 1,000 residents and businesses.

Where Are the People?

The downtown Brooklyn plan deals primarily with office buildings, not people. To its credit, the City Planning Department actually put its rezoning proposal in the context of a comprehensive overview of downtown Brooklyn. But the plan is still mostly about square feet of building space and has very little to do with the quality of urban life, which is what matters most to people who live and work in the city.

In the plan the people are invisible. The plan states that only 1,200 people now live in Brooklyn's business core. But 150,000 people live in the immediately adjacent neighborhoods. Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene, Park Slope and Prospect Heights are blank spaces. What do these people want to improve their daily lives? Are they only passive recipients of the abundant "growth" stimulated by the rezoning? Who will get the jobs that come with development, and who will lose their jobs? How do the locals relate to downtown and what are their development needs? What do they want to preserve that might be threatened by rising property values and speculation fueled by downtown expansion? Where are the tools to protect residential and commercial tenants from being displaced? Will they get any of the windfall profits reaped by property owners whose land gets up-zoned?

Traffic is one of the biggest gripes of Brooklynites, and downtown Brooklyn is already a congestion and pollution nightmare. It is both a destination and a thoroughfare for access to the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. The plan will only make things worse by expanding parking, which will encourage more people to drive there. The dangerous and disagreeable environment faced by pedestrians in downtown Brooklyn, which the plan obliquely acknowledges, would only be addressed by limited sidewalk widening. There's no commitment by the Department of Transportation to reduce traffic. Downtown communities remember how the department successfully undermined the recent multi-million dollar Downtown Brooklyn Traffic Calming Study, which went through years of public discussion to end up with only a few changes to traffic signals. The Department of Transportation has yet to demonstrate the will to reduce roadway capacity, the most essential measure needed to clean up the downtown traffic mess. The mayor has also backed away from his proposal to put tolls on the East River bridges, an action that would have significantly helped relieve downtown traffic. The same Brooklyn elected officials who defend the interests of the elite school of bridge commuters are also cheerleading for the downtown rezoning, compounding the damage.

There are no improvements to mass transit in the plan except for some station upgrades that may be made by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in the future. The downtown's biggest problem is the lack of a decent surface transportation system. Buses are inadequate and perpetually stuck in traffic. Imaginative proposals for a downtown trolley loop that could be linked to the redeveloped waterfront have been around for decades but are nowhere to be found in the plan.

Disappearing Public Spaces

Not to be accused of forgetting entirely about greenery, the city's planners threw in a nice little park. Since it will most likely be surrounded by concrete and glass office towers, this public amenity is more likely to become a backyard play space for corporate tenants, much like Metrotech's little mall. In the meantime, downtown Brooklyn will become a forest of skyscrapers with fewer public spaces.

One of downtown's most lively public spaces today is Fulton Mall. The downtown plan will wipe it off the map. This historic mall was one of the city's first commercial strips that limited access by motor vehicles (city buses run through it). Once the nearby Metrotech complex was built, however, corporate tenants and white collar workers increasingly looked down their noses at the low-rent shops selling cheap goods and the management and clientele, who are mostly people of color. The mall's problems with truck loading were never seriously addressed. The city let the mall stagnate. Why can't the city's planners figure out how to preserve vital street life where it already exists; isn't that what good planning is supposed to be about?

Finally, questions about the downtown plan are growing with mounting opposition to the proposal for an arena over Atlantic Terminal. Developer Bruce Ratner commissioned famed architect Frank Gehry to decorate the arena site with one of his signature buildings. Gehry's noted Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain dropped jaws. But one can only wonder whether anyone will see his sculpted icon when it's surrounded by the commercial clutter of Atlantic Terminal. Most Brooklynites passing by will be trapped in the borough's most gridlocked intersection.

Downtown Brooklyn and its plan are large and complex. They both raise questions and merit much more careful discussion. But the starting point should be the people who live and work there, not the number of square feet of building space that should be built.

Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College, City University of NY, editor of Planners Network Magazine, and a member of the Task Force on Community-based Planning.


January 29th, 2004, 11:23 AM
He makes some good points about preserving the street life of Fulton Mall. He charactorizes people as looking down their noses at the shops. I admit, as a local I have no use for all the dollar stores and cheap merchandises. The only stores I enter with any frequency there are Macy's (which is a dreadful mess, but home to many bargains) and Modells (cause you gotta go to mo's!).

January 31st, 2004, 10:34 PM
Brooklyn Papers
This weeks cover story

It’s the most exciting Brooklyn news in
five decades.
But Bruce Ratner’s plan to bring the
New Jersey Nets to an arena he would
build near the intersection of Atlantic
and Flatbush avenues is miniscule in
comparison to all the development
planned for the greater Downtown and
Brownstone Brooklyn areas. The arena
is even dwarfed by the massive office
and residential towers that Ratner plans
to build immediately adjacent to it, towers
that would substantially obscure the
arena from the view of motorists on
busy Flatbush Avenue.
The massive Downtown Brooklyn Plan —
which would turn the area into a sister to
Midtown Manhattan with skyscrapers
meant to attract corporate back-office leases
and government tenants — is, right
now, coursing through the city public
review process. The Downtown Plan overlaps
both the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Cultural District and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards,
where the Nets arena would be located.
Meanwhile, just south of the arena site,
Park Slope’s Fourth Avenue has been upzoned
to allow taller buildings and encourage
commercial and residential development.
To the west, Lowe’s home improvement
and Fairway supermarket will soon
open traffic-generating big box stores, and
an Ikea is planned in Red Hook.
On the waterfront, there’s Brooklyn
Bridge Park commercial-recreational development,
negotiations to bring Carnival Cruise
Lines to Pier 7, and a city-Port Authority
review of the best uses for Piers 8 through
12 in Carroll Gardens and Red Hook.
If anything, this photo, taken by Space
Imaging in December 2002 and annotated
by The Brooklyn Papers this week,
omits some projects.
If implemented, these projects would,
collectively, forever change Brooklyn as
we’ve known her. Some will, by law,
require public review; for others, developers
and elected officials will seek to
skirt scrutiny and debate.
• • •
Advocates of the overlapping Downtown
Brooklyn Plan and Atlantic Yards
(which form one entity, only a tiny portion
of which would house the Nets)
want the projects discussed separately.
But only by considering jointly the impact
of all the projects shown above can
any of them be properly evaluated.
In the center spread: an enlarged view
of the Downtown Plan and Atlantic Yards.

February 11th, 2004, 07:54 AM
CB2 blows it bigtime

By Neil Sloane
The Brooklyn Papers

Imagine it’s the Super Bowl. Your team is down by three points but has the ball on the 1 yard line. Then the coach sends the quarterback in … to take a knee.

Game over.

What happens next? The coach gets canned.

For Community Board 2, Tuesday’s vote on the Downtown Brooklyn Plan was the big game, and they had it in their hands … and they blew it.

The coach, in this case the board’s chairwoman, Shirley McRae, didn’t make a bad call — she made no call at all. In fact, she literally came into the most important vote the board will likely ever be asked to make with no game plan.

What should happen next? McRae should resign her executive position, if not remove herself from the board all together.

And she’s not the only one.

Ten board members could not be bothered to attend the momentous vote, or send their proxy; three board members abstained from voting and one, incredibly, came to the meeting and then hid in the hallway to avoid voting. She should get the boot first. Her name is Rachel Foster, and she is an appointee of Councilman David Yassky.

McRae was appointed originally by the late Councilwoman Mary Pinkett. She now serves at the pleasure of Councilwoman Letitia James.

All board members ultimately serve under the appointing authority of the borough president.

After her ill-prepared board failed to reach a consensus on the one vote they took, McRae had the gall to say it was not her role to tell board members to make a motion.

Foster, the one who hid, claimed she was too intimidated by the 400 or so anti-Nets arena and anti-eminent domain protesters in the audience, according to a source. Given the circumstances of the confusing vote, and the confusion of many of the protesters as to what was being voted on, she had nothing to worry about.

I think we can do better on the board without her cowering and McRae’s hands-off leadership style.

With the responsibility of rendering a recommendation on the most sweeping redevelopment proposal this borough has ever seen, McRae allowed her board, through either gross incompetence or a willful desire not to get in the way of the dream of developers that would turn Brooklyn into Manhattan, to take itself out of the process.

The board is chosen to represent the community. In the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) the board is the first to review an application, the first to hold a public hearing, and the first to render a recommendation. That recommendation goes to the borough president and to the City Planning Commission and is generally taken into consideration (although with a majority of the planning commissioners serving at the pleasure of the mayor, the fix may well be in at that level of review).

Still, especially since the city rushed such a voluminous and complicated proposal before them — dumping the 210-page ULURP application on the board right before the December holidays, leaving less than the required 60 days for actual consideration — the chairwoman should have scheduled a special meeting for her members to discuss and clarify each action within the plan before the meeting at which they were to vote.

The board’s job was not to decided whether or not to make a recommendation — it’s job was to decide what to recommend.

To quote from ULURP rules in the City Charter: “The community board may include in its submission the reasons for the vote and any conditions attached to its vote. The community board may state that its conditional approval shall be considered a negative recommendation … if conditions that it considers essential to minimize land use or environmental impacts are not adopted by the [City Planning] Commission.”

With such an involved plan before them — in which the city has unfairly combined a massive rezoning with a massive urban renewal expansion to allow for a massive build-up — it was essential that the board be instructed to vote separately on the rezoning proposals and the urban renewal-eminent domain proposals within the plan, or at least separately vote on each of the land use committee’s five recommendations.

Those votes would have formed the basis for an overall recommendation, which could have been made conditional.

Board member Ken Diamondstone got it. He stood up and called for an item by item vote. His fellow board members, including the chairwoman, overwhelmingly shot that proposal down.

McRae just stood by and watched as her board relinquished the community’s right to weigh in. She rendered herself and her board irrelevant. Someone in authority should make it official.

Neil Sloane is the editor of The Brooklyn Papers. E-mail: Newsroom@BrooklynPapers.com

February 11th, 2004, 08:08 AM
Your representatives in the Gov't can't do their homework.



Confused Community Board 2 fails to speak on massive D’town Plan

At left is a rendering of open space encased within a complex of skyscrapers that the Downtown Plan envisions along Willoughby Street between Duffield and Gold streets. The open space would be created by the seizure of private property through the state’s power of eminent domain and street demapings. The tree-lined triangle at the top would cover the site now occupied by the 57-year-old Institute of Design and Construction. Downtown Plan renderings, like this one, portray proposed structures as only a dozen or so stories tall, cutting off their tops to avoid picturing their intended heights — possibly exceeding 60 stories — that would dwarf Brooklyn’s existing skyline.

By Deborah Kolben
The Brooklyn Papers

The most complex rezoning plan in city history, which would convert Downtown Brooklyn into a booming metropolis with soaring towers and require the taking of seven acres of private land, is moving forward through the city review process — without input from Community Board 2.

Following years of planning, months of discussion and a four-hour public hearing, the Downtown Brooklyn board effectively removed itself — and the communities it represents — from the process when it gathered Tuesday night at Brooklyn Technical High School in Fort Greene to vote on the multi-layered application.

That’s because most board members were baffled as to what exactly they were voting on.

“The proposal was too big —why didn’t they break it down?” asked board member Irene Van Slyke, who voted to adopt the recommendations of CB2’s Land Use committee.

That panel effectively culled down a more than 210-page ULURP application and its companion 3-inch-thick Draft Environmental Impact Statement into a two-page report recommending that the board approve the upzoning of the Downtown area to allow for sweeping towers but disapprove of eminent domain takings of private property that would allow the city to seize 100 apartments, 130 commercial units and a college, all of which city planners say is needed to achieve much of the specific development outlined in the application.

Rather than—

•vote to recommend approval or rejection of the entire massive city application, or

•vote individually on each of the application’s 22 independent actions, or

•vote to recommend disapproval unless certain aspects of the plan, like the eminent domain property takings, were removed,
—the board decided to cast just one vote on the Land Use committee’s report.

Because they had to vote yes or no to a report that contained both approvals and disapprovals, board members were confused as to precisely what their vote would mean.

Following a brief discussion by board members about the plan, including traffic concerns and the need to fully study the implications of such a big build-out in conjunction with other developments around the area (many of them enumerated on a satellite photo of greater Downtown Brooklyn on the front page of last week’s Brooklyn Papers), the board voted 19-17, with three abstentions, in favor of adopting the committee’s report.

But according to board rules, a majority of the board members in attendance is required to pass a resolution.

With 36 board members voting, three (Gloria Andrews, Edward Carter and Hemalee Patel) abstaining and one board member (Rachel Foster) actually ducking the vote — she hid in the hallway saying she felt pressured by the hundreds of vocal protesters, according to a source — there were 40 board members in attendance. Therefore, 21 votes were needed to adopt the committee report.
Thus, the committee’s report was rejected.

Adding to the strange happenings, before the final tally was counted, Patel asked to change her vote from an abstention to an actual vote. Her request was shot down by CB2 Chairwoman Shirley McRae.

Foster did not return telephone messages left on her cell phone.

Irene Van Slyke, a longtime community board member, jumped up and took the microphone after the votes had been cast and McRae was still speaking.

“Now the borough president won’t understand what this vote means,” she said.

“We just weren’t finished,” said Van Slyke, who is opposed to most parts of the Downtown Plan.

She explained that a “yes” vote actually meant voting down eminent domain portions of the plan and several street demappings that would make way for larger development sites.

Located just blocks from the proposed Atlantic Yards site where developer Bruce Ratner is looking to construct a $2.5 billion residential and commercial village centered around a professional basketball arena to house his recently purchased New Jersey Nets, some of the approximately 400 protesters who packed the high school auditorium thought CB2 was actually voting on the arena plan.

Draped in American flags and armed with placards and balloons they cheered after it was announced that the board had failed to make a recommendation, thinking that meant they decided to not approve the arena plan. Others in attendance wanted the Downtown and arena plans considered together and still others were protesting the eminent domain portions of the Downtown Plan.

“There was a lot of misinformation,” said McRae, explaining before the board adjourned that contrary to the belief of many, the board’s vote had no bearing on the arena plan.

The two plans which cover adjacent areas and whose impact on each other cannot be separated, are in fact linked physically, overlapping on the site at Atlantic and Flatbush avenues where Ratner wants to build a 620-foot office tower adjacent to a Nets arena.

For the most part, Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project will likely skirt community board and city review by going through the much less rigorous state review process.

The community board is the first stop along the approximately seven-month city Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) and is followed by public hearings before and votes by the borough president, City Planning Commission and City Council.

While the role of the board is purely advisory, its ULURP vote and recommendations send a clear message to elected officials about the concerns and wishes of the communities it serves.

Except in this case where it sends no message at all.

“I know they voted against the committee recommendation,” is all Hardy Adasko, senior vice president of the city Economic Development Corporation, would say when asked to interpret the vote.

Some feared that a vote against the committee recommendation could be viewed as a vote in favor of eminent domain, since the committee had voted down those portions of the plan.

“The community board has essentially taken no vote on anything,” said CB2 member Ken Diamondstone, who made a motion before the vote to consider each of the 22 actions and vote on them individually.

That motion was voted down by the board.

“It was strange that the meeting didn’t continue with some request for another resolution,” said Diamondstone.

Asked afterwards why she did not take action to ensure the board adopted some resolution or recommendation on the application or took another vote, McRae said it was not her role to tell board members to make a motion.

Responding to the loss of 21,000 city jobs to New Jersey in the 1990s, the Bloomberg administration announced the Downtown Brooklyn Plan last April.

The mayor pledged to fund $100 million in infrastructure improvements and construction over the next 10 years, but the project would still be largely dependent on market conditions and the ability to lure business and developers.

Critics have called the $100 million “chicken feed” and said much more would be needed for traffic mitigation and subway construction alone.

Just last week, as CB2 was gearing up to vote on the plan, Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff sent a multi-page letter to the board outlining a number of traffic mitigations the city would consider studying.

But many members said it was too little, too late and urged the city to do the traffic studies before pushing ahead with the plan.

“Let’s do the birth control planning now, not after the baby is born,” CB2 member Bill Harris wrote in a Jan. 28 letter to fellow board members.

So what happens now?

The massive application goes to Borough President Marty Markowitz, who was hosting a reception in honor of Bishop Nicolas DiMarzio, spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn Tuesday night and did not attend the vote.

“Although the community board took no clear position on the Downtown Plan many important issues were raised during the several committee and general board meetings,” said Markowitz, adding, “I look forward to hearing more about these issues.”

The next public hearing on the Downtown Plan will be hosted by Markowitz on Feb. 18, at 6 pm, at Borough Hall.

“We have to have the borough president do the right thing,” said Nancy Wolf, chairwoman of the CB2 Traffic and Transportation committee, who is asking Markowitz to advocate for the committee’s extensive list of recommendations with regard to the Downtown Plan.

February 12th, 2004, 04:13 PM
No buildings taller than 40 stories?

Kinda reminds me of L.A.'s Wilshire.....

February 12th, 2004, 04:31 PM
There may be buildings over 40 floors...

TLOZ Link5
February 12th, 2004, 10:07 PM
The article says that some of the buildings might exceed 60 stories.

February 12th, 2004, 10:56 PM
Of course we have no idea whether that's a floor count or the traditional 'layman's story' of 10 feet a floor. Using the latter, one could say Atlantic Yards will be getting a 62 story building. Obviously, it's not.

February 13th, 2004, 12:27 AM
True. I think it really means 600 ft.

February 15th, 2004, 02:02 AM
When the plan was announced they said there would be no height restrictions on building in the downtown area. I didn't see where that article contradicted that (although I may have not read closely--and there was a mention that FAA may impose restrictions as it's in the JFK/LGA flight path).

April 17th, 2004, 10:13 PM
April 18, 2004


For a Place With a Future, an Eye to the Past


Unless you have an affinity for oversize signs, the area around Fulton Street in Downtown Brooklyn might not be your first choice for charming architecture. Most of the elegant department stores were replaced decades ago by discount clothiers and fast-food restaurants. One of the last vestiges of a more genteel past, the Gage & Tollner steakhouse, closed in February.

But developers have recently begun to buzz about Downtown Brooklyn. A city proposal calls for rezoning parts of the neighborhood for taller buildings, and a proposed arena for the Nets at the nearby Atlantic Avenue rail yards could transform the area's profile even more.

Neighborhood groups say that kind of development needs to proceed with one eye on the past. To that end, members of the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Municipal Art Society recently walked through Downtown Brooklyn, looked beyond the flashy signs to the turrets, cast iron and terra cotta, and chose 16 buildings that they would like designated as landmarks. Among the structures are the Liebmann Brothers Building and the Offerman Building on Fulton Street and the Board of Education offices at 110 Livingston Street.

"In this day and age, when one is redeveloping a downtown area, one looks for elements that will preserve the character and personality of the area," said Otis Pratt Pearsall, a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association who in the late 1950's and early 1960's helped get the Heights designated as the city's first historic district.

"A remarkable amount of original Fulton Street still survives," he said, adding that he knew of only two places downtown, the Dime Savings Bank and the interior of Gage & Tollner, that had been declared landmarks.

Robert Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, promised that his agency would look at the request; four of the buildings in question are on sites the city has proposed for redevelopment.

Deirdre Carson, a vice president of the Brooklyn Heights Association, suggested that the city allow owners of landmarks to sell air rights to other buildings in the area, a tactic that helped preserve some theaters in Times Square. Regina Myer, the Brooklyn director for city planning, said the city had not discussed that idea, although it was not out of the question.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

April 18th, 2004, 12:11 AM
So, what are all the plans for d'town bk? just bigger skyscrapers? sounds good to me, I'd like to see all 5 boroughs look like Manhattan...that would be cool. Did this pass yet????

April 18th, 2004, 12:14 AM
You might want to read the articles in the thread. ;)

In short: Downtown getting taller buildings, a new park, a landscaped Flatbush Avenue, and a new transit hub.

April 30th, 2004, 06:51 PM
Brooklyn Paper (May 1 edition)

Downtown Plan overhaul
Urban renewal steamroller brakes for design college

By Deborah Kolben

It was targeted to be among the first to go, under the city’s massive Downtown Brooklyn rezoning and redevelopment plan, but this week the Institute of Design and Construction got a reprieve.

The City Planning Commission unveiled changes to the Downtown Brooklyn Plan on Monday, and at the top of the list was taking the site of the 67-year-old architectural school, at the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and Willoughby Street, out of the plan altogether.

“We’re elated” Vincent Battista, 58, president of the Institute of Design and Construction, said when he learned about the change this week.

The college was to be claimed under the government’s power of eminent domain and then demolished to create a better view plane from Flatbush Avenue to a 1.5-acre open space the city plans to build across the street. The planned Willoughby Square would be modeled after Post Square in Boston, according to city planners.

“Nobody is against progress or against construction, it’s just a question of size and seeing people being taken care of,” said Battista, who has criticized the city for wanting to “knock down the building and plant grass.”

More reassuring to Battista, an early and vocal opponent of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan, was that his property was also removed from plans to extend the Brooklyn Center Urban Renewal Area, easing his concerns about future condemnation of the property, as well.

Battista’s father, Vito Battista, a political maverick known for his outlandish stunts — he once paraded around town on an elephant — purchased the building at 141 Willoughby St. for $300,000 in 1967.

With the building paid off, the nearly $1.5 million in annual rent from upstairs office tenants allows the building trades school to subsidize tuition. Currently at $4,800 per year, Battista had argued the cost to students would be nearly double without the money generated from the building and that in order to operate in another location the school would need a guarantee of free rent.

He had threatened to sue to stop the taking of his property. If the modified Downtown Brooklyn Plan is approved by the City Planning Commission on May 10 that will no longer be necessary.

Still, more than 130 residential units and 100 businesses will be displaced by the plan, which the mayor and other officials tout as necessary to stem the tide of corporate back-office space moving to New Jersey and elsewhere.

The complex rezoning of 60 blocks to make way for office, residential and academic towers and turn downtown into what city and borough officials say will be a bustling, 24-7 hub, requires condemning at least seven acres of private property.

The Downtown Plan would allow for the construction of at least 6.7 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail, 1,000 units of housing and 2,500 parking spaces.

Michael Burke, director of the Downtown Brooklyn Council, an offshoot of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce that helped conceive the plan, praised the alterations.

“We see these as positive changes,” said Burke. “The core values of the plan are still there and we have positively responded to the community and it’s a better plan because of it.”

Other changes announced by the planning commission Monday included cutting out a portion of the plan area that overlaps with developer Bruce Ratner’s Atlantic Yards development, a triangular lot at the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues where Ratner would build the tallest of his Frank Gehry-designed towers, a 620-foot-tall skyscraper that would be the tallest building in the borough.

Together the Downtown Plan and Atlantic Yards would add an additional 14 million square feet of development in the greater Downtown Brooklyn area and would require the taking of approximately 15 acres of private land by eminent domain.

Arena opponents and those concerned about the effects of traffic and other environmental factors packed public hearings on the Downtown Plan calling on the city to consider the impacts of the two plans together when reviewing the Downtown Plan. When those calls went unheeded, Fort Greene-Prospect Heights Councilwoman Letitia James, whose district includes portions of both plans, called on the Atlantic Yards block to be removed from the Downtown Plan boundary.

The move was something of a formality, however, as the Ratner development, because it is likely to be spearheaded by the state, will not have to undergo city review, nor abide by city zoning regulations, according to city and state officials.

Some of the other changes put forth by the planing commission this week will benefit other local academic institutions.

The commissioners also excluded two buildings on Livingston Street near Hanover Place, where Long Island University is looking to build additional classrooms.

Long Island University was in discussions to develop the property before the city announced, as part of the Downtown Plan, it would extend the period of the urban renewal area in which they sit for another 40 years.

In another modification, any development on the site at Boerum Place and Fulton Street — which is targeted by the plan for high-rise development — will now have to include 100,000 square feet of higher education space. The site, owned by Brooklyn Law School, is across the street from the college.

“We currently own and occupy space at 1 Boerum Place that is integral to our educational mission and we look forward to maintaining our presence in any future development that occurs on that site,” Law School officials said in a written statement in response to questions about the modifications this week.

Many community members and elected officials labeled the changes a victory, while many others said there was still more to be done in order to make the plan a “win-win” for the community.

“I’m happy that we were able to save the school and we’re still negotiating about two other items,” said James.

She is now working with several community members along Duffield Street whose homes and businesses would likely be taken to make way for office towers.

Some of those residents claim the Underground Railroad ran beneath their property and should therefore be preserved.

“A big fight for me right now is trying to save those homes,” said James.

Winston Von Engel, deputy director of the Brooklyn office of the Department of City Planning said the city has not been able to find any evidence linking the homes with the Underground Railroad but would have to do an archeological assessment.

Lewis Greenstein, who owns a 150-year-old, brown clapboard residential and commercial building at 233 Duffield St., said it was “disheartening” that the city was not going to preserve the buildings and vowed to continue the fight.

James is also pushing for height restrictions on buildings along Flatbush Avenue, which falls in her district.

Over the past several months community members have voiced their concerns at public hearings hosted by Community Board 2 and Borough President Marty Markowitz. Traffic and public transportation issues topped the list of concerns.

The community board failed to make a recommendation on the plan, while Markowitz voted in favor of the plan last month but submitted a dense list of recommendations, including sparing the Institute of Design and Construction.

“I fully expect that the money saved by the city not acquiring the Institute of Design and Construction will be spent on parkland in the community. However, I hope that … my recommendations, especially my desire to see significant affordable housing will be included in this plan,” Markowitz said this week.

Traffic consultant Brian Ketcham said the plan should be put on hold until the city conducts a major traffic masterplan for downtown.

According to Ketcham, the downtown rezoning will bring an additional 17,500 cars and 95,000 subway riders each day.

That doesn’t include the other surrounding development either planned or approved for the area including the nearly 8 million square feet of development at the adjoining Atlantic Yards site.

Downtown Councilman David Yassky is generally supportive of the plan, his aides say, but has concerns over traffic and transportation. He did not return calls seeking comment on the plan.

Preservations are also pushing the city to consider saving several downtown buildings.

The Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and other local community groups have joined forces with the Municipal Art Society to seek the city landmark designation of 16 buildings in Downtown Brooklyn that could face demolition as part of the Downtown Brooklyn Plan..

June 29th, 2004, 08:08 AM
June 29, 2004

In Brooklyn, a Plan Passes and an Arena Is Protested


The City Council took a major step in remaking Downtown Brooklyn yesterday, formally approving an ambitious rezoning package that is intended to encourage commercial and residential development as part of the city's efforts to attract and keep jobs within the five boroughs.

"This plan will go a long way toward creating a vibrant downtown in Brooklyn and ensuring New York City's competitiveness for many years to come," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement. "We will now focus our energies on attracting companies to Downtown Brooklyn and developing the sites, both commercial and residential, covered in this effort."

The plan, which passed by a vote of 47 to 0 with one abstention and covers an area roughly bounded by Flatbush Avenue and Tillary, Adams and Schermerhorn Streets, could create 4.5 million square feet of new office and commercial space and 1,000 apartments, as well as a new park on top of a garage at Willoughby Street.

"The purpose of this plan is to help New York City compete with New Jersey, Westchester, Connecticut for high-paying office jobs," tens of thousands of which the city lost to those areas during the last economic boom, Councilman David Yassky said in voting to approve the package. "This plan will help us keep those jobs in the next boom."

Still, some elements of the plan that had touched off community opposition, including the potential demolition of buildings that may have been stops on the Underground Railroad and an expected shortage of parking for residents, remain unresolved. Council members said they planned to hold hearings to consider designating the buildings that were possibly used by runaway slaves as landmarks, while Mr. Yassky, who represents the area, said the city had agreed to a number of steps to open more parking spaces to residents, including, perhaps, a residential permit program.

Similar concerns about overdevelopment in the area surfaced yesterday when a group opposed to a neighboring development project, one that would bring a Nets arena and 17 commercial and residential towers to an area sweeping west from the Atlantic Avenue railyards, released a report concluding that the plan could cost city and state taxpayers up to $506 million. "Make no mistake, this project will be using taxpayer money - loads of it," Gustav Peebles, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University and a co-writer of the report, said at a news conference announcing the findings.

The report was written largely in response to an economic analysis commissioned by Forest City Ratner, the Atlantic Yards developer. That report concluded that the project would bring about $800 million in net revenue for the city and state. The money would come in part from tax revenues associated with the arena, increasingly valuable real estate and spending by new residents and office workers.

But the report by Dr. Peebles, an anthropologist who studies economic issues, argues that the Forest City Ratner report, written by Andrew Zimbalist, an economist who analyzes the sports industry, makes several faulty assumptions, including overstating the need for new office space, inflating the projected income levels of potential residents and workers and ignoring the effect of a long-term construction project on property values. The new report, written with Jung Kim, an urban planner with a master's degree from the London School of Economics, concludes that the project is not worth the public investment the developer is seeking.

"In other states and localities, developers pay impact fees out of their own revenues to cover the social costs arising from their projects," the report says. "Here in New York, the payment is in reverse, with taxpayers handing over hundreds of millions to wealthy developers."

Barry Baum, a spokesman for Forest City Ratner (which is The New York Times Company's partner in developing its new headquarters on Eighth Avenue in Manhattan), said company officials had not yet fully reviewed the report and could not comment on the details. "However," he added, "Andrew Zimbalist is a respected economist who has not in the past generally supported this kind of project, but clearly sees a great benefit for the city and state from the Atlantic Yards arena and development."

Dr. Zimbalist, for his part, said he had not seen the report and knew only what he had heard from reporters. Saying he was unsure whether Dr. Peebles or Mr. Kim had fully understood the economic issues, he added, "I was very careful in my use of numbers."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

June 29th, 2004, 09:53 PM
YAY! GOOD NEWS! Brooklyn here the skyscrapers come! :D :D

July 3rd, 2004, 09:01 PM
July 4, 2004

In a Ragtag Hub, Look Up, For There's Beauty Above


The Landmarks Preservation Commission is working to protect the Offerman building, above, and others in the Fulton Mall area of Brooklyn.

To walk in and around the Fulton Mall in Downtown Brooklyn is to be confronted with the visual cacophony of a fraying commercial hub. Along this block, a pastiche of racy magazine covers gives way to the tropical-themed neon of a cellphone store. Over there, glittering swaths of gold jewelry are punctuated by advertisements for human-hair wigs and fancy front teeth. And across the street, in front of a jumble of designer athletic wear and discount children's clothing, street vendors offer sunglasses, watches, incense and African black soap.

But looming above, preservationists say, are the reminders of the area's 19th- and 20th-century grandeur, brick and stone relics of a thriving shopping and theatrical district serving Brooklyn and Long Island.

"You have to look up, particularly here, it's so dramatic," Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, said on a recent afternoon, pointing toward the Flemish-inspired gables, decorated in vibrant, multihued glazed terra cotta, atop a building on Livingston Street with a hair salon below.

"If you don't look up," he continued, his gaze sweeping toward a barren concrete parking garage and shuttered storefronts, "you'd just say, 'Why would you ever want to landmark that?' "

Having spent a good deal of time looking up, though, Mr. Tierney and his colleagues at the commission have determined that there are indeed plenty of buildings you would want to declare landmarks, including one that was designated last week, at 81 Willoughby Street. Designed by Rudolph L. Daus and built in 1898 as the headquarters for the New York and New Jersey Telephone Company, the Beaux-Arts-style building dominates its spot at Lawrence Street with a rounded corner and a heavy projecting cornice, its sides festooned with intertwining wires, bells and receivers and its entrance flanked by old-fashioned telephones.

And while landmark buildings are not entirely unknown to the area - the Gage & Tollner restaurant on Fulton gained that status in the mid-1970's and the Dime Savings Bank building at Albee Square was designated about 20 years later - 81 Willoughby is only the beginning of a potential wave. The commission, inspired by members of the Brooklyn Heights Association and the Municipal Art Society, is also pursuing protection for four other buildings around the mall that could be threatened by new construction encouraged by the Downtown Brooklyn redevelopment plan that was approved last week.

The commission has started work to protect 101 Willoughby Street, a copper-colored Art Deco behemoth built for the New York Telephone Company in the early 1930's and now used by Verizon. Mr. Tierney and the commission's executive director, Ronda Wist, also said that the commission planned to pursue an elegant neo-Classical-style limestone building at Fulton and Hoyt Streets that once housed the Namm's department store, as well as the Offerman building across the street, a Romanesque Revival-style structure with an intricately ornamented entrance arch that now heralds a Conway store. It is also working to protect the building on Livingston Street.

And there may be others still. Preservation groups have identified as many as 23 other buildings of historical significance, from a three-story 1840's Greek Revival clapboard house on Duffield Street to a 1920's Schrafft's at Smith and Fulton Streets.

"We are delighted that the Landmarks Commission has taken this step and is proposing further steps," said Otis Pratt Pearsall, a member of the Brooklyn Heights Association who has been active in preserving the area's history. "We are encouraged to believe that they are going to give a serious look at the entire list and that a great many, if not all, of the buildings on that list will be designated."

Mr. Tierney said that although the commission would consider more buildings in the future, the first five were the priority for the moment. "It's another era of Brooklyn, but hopefully we can be part of preserving that part of that era as other development takes place here," he said. "It would be nice to have these memories set in stone, if you will, and that's what we're looking to do."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

http://nyc.gov/html/lpc/pdfs/highlights/06_29_04.pdf (Look for 81 Willoughby Street.)